Penn State guard Dieffenbach keeps it light to augment toughness
By Chris Adamski
Published: Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Quick on his feet — and at reading opponents' rush packages — Miles Dieffenbach is most nimble when it comes to dispensing sharp one-liners.
The Penn State guard, a Fox Chapel graduate, emerged as one of the stars of the ESPN Penn State reality program “Training Days” because of his cutting sense of humor. His contributions to the Nittany Lions' experienced offensive line aren't as much of a laughing matter.
A redshirt junior, the 6-foot-3, 295-pound Dieffenbach has been the Lions' starting left guard since the beginning of last season. He's blocked for 1,000-yard rusher Zach Zwinak, 3,000-yard passer Matt McGloin and a Penn State offense that has averaged 30 points per game during his tenure.
But ask Dieffenbach's teammates, they'll remember him for much more than just path-clearing pulls and pancake blocks.
“Every team,” running back Bill Belton said, “needs a guy like Miles Dieffenbach.
“Dieffenbach is a very funny guy; he keeps the room light. He's just a character at practice. It's kind of hard to explain – it's something you need to see in person to truly get.”
Try explaining, for example, the “Salt Game” Dieffenbach played with teammates that aired on the ESPN show: Dieffenbach quizzes a teammate, incorrect answers illicit salt shaken onto the tongue, hilarity ensues.
Dieffenbach said Tuesday that he saves the game “only for special occasions.”
“I don't want to use it too much. It'll lose its allure around the team.”
Dieffenbach is careful not to let his jokes get stale. Thus far, the character's act has anything but worn thin with his teammates.
“Miles is an awesome guy,” said sophomore safety and Shaler graduate Jesse Della Valle, Dieffenbach's roommate and a friend dating to their high school days. “He's got a personality, but he's a great guy overall and a really good guy for our team. He's a really good player and you've got to love a guy like that that can bring a lot of fun to you every day in practice and routine things like that.”
Dieffenbach isn't all fun and games. He's tough, too, as evidenced by an ugly dislocated finger suffered amid a pile of bodies during last Saturday's win against Eastern Michigan. Dieffenbach didn't want to leave the field. An official forced him to upon seeing the grisly angle of the finger.
It was popped back into place on the sidelines, and the finger won't affect Dieffenbach's status for this coming Saturday's 6 p.m. home game against Central Florida. In fact, it wouldn't come to anyone's surprise if Dieffenbach translates the experience into a punchline or two.
“That's just the way I grew up,” Dieffenbach said. “I've always been an outgoing kind of a guy who likes to keep things fun and loose. I don't know really where I got it from. There's a time and place for everything, but really, all the guys on the team, I like to have fun with them.”
There are those who perceive Dieffenbach as a “steal” of a recruit for Penn State out from under the nose of Pitt.
Dieffenbach's father, George, was a Panthers tennis coach for almost 40 years, and Miles' sister, Sarah, played for her father.
“They love Pitt,” Miles said. “For my dad, that's a big part of his life, and my sister went to school there. You can't just leave that behind — but they're definitely huge Penn State fans now.”
Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.
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